Sunday, January 16, 2011

My 5 tips for creating a fantastic dinner party (without breaking your piggy bank)!

As I explained in my Ellyson New Years Eve Extravaganza post, I love organizing dinner parties and coming up with nice table settings. I always like to try and find alternative (and less costly) ways to achieve the looks I want.  I rather spend more on the food…. because that’s the important part right? But I can’t sacrifice the setting, because that’s very important to me too.

Here are some of my little secrets that I used in order to create my New Years Eve party table on a super low budget! It doesn’t have to be expensive to wow your guests. You just have to be a little creative and think outside the box!

1- Be creative with your linens

One thing that can be super expensive when hosting a formal diner party are the table linens. The table cloths, the cloth napkins… that can really add up. I like to think out of the box and try to use things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of first hand.

Would you believe that for this particular table setting I used curtains and dish towels? Well I did.

The white table cloth underneath is actually a white curtain panel. Since I was using two tables side by side in order to fit in all 14 guests, I just put the curtain tabs between the two tables making it impossible to notice their original function.

For the cloth napkins I actually cut dish towels in half (the original size was way too big to use as a napkin) and simply hemmed the side (actually, my grand-ma did that part for me!).

As for the table runner in white and navy, I just purchased 1,5 meters of the fabric and cut and sewed it down to size.

This takes a bit more time then just buying a standard table cloth set but you can mix and match different colours and textures to create a much more interesting result and at a fraction of the price.

Here are my numbers:

- 2 table cloths: 2 white curtain panels    = 20$ for both (at Ikea)
- 14 cloth napkins: 7 dish towels    = 3,50$ (0,50$ each at Ikea)
- table runner: 1,5 meter fabric     = 9$ (6$/merter at Ikea)

So for 32,50$ (plus taxes), I was able to create all of the dressings for this table of 14 guests.

2- Decorate with elements from your fridge or pantry

Try garnishing your plates with some fresh herbs (they do in restaurants all the time) … or why not incorporate some coarse salt or river-bed stones to the presentation. They coast virtually nothing and really help to jazz put the plating. Your guests will think they are in a snazzy restaurant!

Using coarse salt to present a platter of oysters is a great idea. Not only does it look really pretty but it also keeps the oysters from rocking around in the plate.

3- Create your own fancy table wear

Owning all kinds of different fancy service table wear is really nice for dinner parties but they can be pretty expensive to buy and most definatly inconvenient to store (because lets face it, you don’t use them every day).

For the dinner, I wanted to use some 2 teared plates to present some of the food. I find that it gives a bit of height to the table and it’s also a nice way to save some space when you have many different dishes on the table… Since I didn’t have enough double deckers… I decided to make some. This is a really cheap alternative to going out and buying some. On a glass plate I stacked a glass bowl on a glass glass. In order to help with the stability I filled the glass with small river stones. Voila! An instant 2 levelled plate.

For the desserts I didn’t have 14 small ramequins to make my pear caramels. What I did have though are 14 small jam jars. They turned out to be the perfect size and I think it adds a cute homemade touch to the dessert!

4- Who needs place cards

Instead of cutting, folding, gluing, writing, … place cards to indicate the seating of the guests, I just wrote down the initial of their name on the plate. I used a balsamic vinegar reduction (so it’s 100% edible) with an artist brush the paint the initials onto the plates.  I just wrote down one letter but you could really go crazy and write a message or a motif… edible art!

5- Candles for a little romance

I love, love, love, love LOVE candles. Whether it be for romance or not, I find that they really create a great ambiance… especially for eating. Wow, I’m not teaching you anything new. My personal twist on candles is using lots of small votive candles as well as some other high ones to really create a relaxing and friendly atmosphere perfect for sharing a great meal amongst loved ones! Once again… try to think out of the box. Try using some cocktail glasses to nest the candles… it gives a nice height to the light but not so much that it blocks the person sitting in front of you.

Some candles can be pretty pricy while others not at all. You have to be carefull of the quality thought, because not all candles burn at the same speed and some tend to drip a lot (and wax on a table cloth is no good). I purchased to round candles at Ikea and if my memory is correct they were 2,50$ each and burned very well (slowly with no dripping).

 I hope that these little tricks will help you out next time you decide to have a dinner party. Whether it be big or small, there are always alternatives to the good old classics that will provide you with something unique… and inexpensive. You just have to think outside the box.

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